One of the varsity “rookies” at Royalton-Hartland High School this spring is more important than the strong core of returning veterans.

Brad Halgash takes over for long-time mentor Don Baker as head coach of the baseball Rams, who finished 4-8 in the Niagara-Orleans League a year ago and 6-12 overall. They’ll open their 2006 slate at 4:30 p.m. on April 21 at Albion.

A graduate of Lewiston-Porter High School and Canisius College, Halgash inherits a promising Rams team that features four veteran co-captains — seniors Dale Budziszewski (2B/P/OF), Ryan Newton (C) and Tom Tibbs (1B) and junior Justin Phipps (SS) — seven seniors in all.

“We’ve got a solid group of players coming back,” said Newton, a catcher who was named to the N-O’s honorable mention all-star team a year ago, along with Budziszewski and Phipps.

“Our success is going to depend on our pitching and how well we play defense. We’ve got a solid, experienced lineup, so we’re very optimistic.”

The Rams feature a deep, strong pitching rotation that includes Tibbs, a left-hander, senior right-handers Robert King and Pat Reinhardt, junior right-handers Scott Smith and Bryan Hammond and sophomore righty Ryan Schwab.

Roy-Hart also returns experience in senior infielders Ken Leonard and Steve Szklany.

Roy-Hart’s lineup also includes juniors Mark Donnelly (C/OF), Andy Leising (1B), Brian Conley (OF) and Joe Taylor (OF).

“With our experience, the potential to have a successful season is there,” Halgash said.

“We’re very strong up the middle and that’s very important.”

The Rams will host Albion today (weather permitting) and Newfane on Thursday, both at 4:30 p.m. Roy-Hart is also slated to participate in the Lyndonville Tournament on April 22.

Contact John D’Onofrio at 439-9222 Ext. 6247 or donofrioj@gnnewspaper.com.

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